India’s homegrown cervical cancer vaccine can be a game changer say doctors

India’s homegrown cervical cancer vaccine can be a game changer say doctors
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  • As per World Health Organization estimates, India has around one-fifth of the global cervical cancer cases, with 1.23 lakh per annum and 67,000 fatalities.
  • Doctors and experts say that the only way to prevent cervical cancer is to administer the vaccine to young girls aged between 9 to 14 years before they get exposed to sexual activities.
  • Vaccines have proved to be 99% effective in preventing cancer from HPV.
A fifth of the world’s cervical cancer cases are from India – adding 1.23 lakh new cases per annum. And as many as 67,000 succumb to the disease every year. In 2019, the number of fatalities caused by this deadly cancer was at 4 lakh, according to a report by World Health Organization (WHO).

Doctors say that a good way to prevent cervical cancer is to administer a vaccine.

“Large scientific studies have shown that HPV vaccines can prevent cervical cancer and death from cervical cancer. Cervical cancer affects women in their reproductive age group between 35-50 years and also after menopause,” Dr. Richa Bansal, gynec onco-surgery, Apollo Cancer Centres, Navi Mumbai told Business Insider.

The vaccines however are best effective when administered before sexual intercourse. So doctors peg the right age at 9-14 years before sexual intercourse.

Cervical cancer develops in the cells of the cervix — the lowermost part of the uterus in women, caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), which is sexually transmitted.


Doctors hope that a homegrown vaccine with cost benefits can have a major effect on the incidence and fatality of this cancer.

A Made-in-India vaccine

There are currently two vaccines available in the Indian market for cervical cancer — Merck’s quadrivalent vaccine Gardasil and GSK’s bivalent vaccine Cervarix. Gardasil costs around ₹2,800 per dose, while the bivalent vaccine costs ₹3,299 per dose.

India will soon get its third vaccine from the Serum Institute of India, named Cervavac. The vaccine will be available in the market in the next few months, the central government announced on September 1.

Cervavac is said to be effective against at least four variants of HPV and will be available at a price of around ₹200-₹400. That’s less than a tenth of what the current vaccines cost.

“The newer ones (Cervavac) will be much cheaper and affordable for the people. The importance of a cheaper vaccine is to make it more accessible to a lot of people and prevent many patients from getting cervical cancer,” Dr. Sandeep Nayak P, director — department of surgical oncology and robotic and laparoscopic surgery, Fortis Hospitals, Bengaluru told Business Insider India.

The production of the Cervavac vaccine will start in December or early next year. The Drugs Controller General of India (DGCI) granted the market authorisation to Serum Institute to manufacture the vaccine in July this year.

Serum Insitute’s vaccine is expected to cover 90% of the population against HPV.

VaccineCost per dose
Source: Reports

Not just cervical cancer

In addition to showing 99% efficacy against cervical cancer, all the above vaccines are effective against other cancers too.

Dr Nayak added that cervical cancer vaccines can also help prevent pharyngeal cancer, also caused by HPV. It’s also known to be effective against penile cancer in men.

“This persistent infection in the cervix can lead to malignant changes in the cells of the cervix. The abnormal cells on the surface of the cervix, can extend deeper and travel to other parts of the body. This risk of developing cervical cancer can be reduced through vaccination against HPV. The trials have proved that there is 99% effectiveness of HPV vaccine in preventing cancer from HPV 16 and 18,” said Dr. Sarika Gupta, senior consultant, oncology and robotic gynecology, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, New Delhi.

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